Government has asked 21 smartphone makers to share information about measures undertaken by them to ensure security and privacy of users' data. Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology wrote to the smartphone companies after a high-level meeting chaired by IT MInister Ravi Shankar Prasad, said a Times of India report. The companies are required to submit their responses to by August 28.
Devices and preloaded applications and software will be examined in the first phase, news agency PTI quoted a senior IT Ministry official. The move came over government concerns that users' personal data on their phones could be siphoned to third parties. Case of contacts and text messages being leaked from mobile phones have been reported in India and abroad. Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi was accused two years ago of sending data from its Indian users' phone to servers in China, following which Indian Air Force had cautioned its personnel against using devices made by the company.
Notably, most of the 21 smartphone companies pulled up by the Ministry are based in China. Government has written to Xiaomi, Oppo, Vivo, Gionee and Lenovo. A sizable portion of Indian smartphone market share is held by Chinese handset manufacturers, who have their servers in China, posing a threat to data security of Indian users. Indian companies including Micromax, Lava, and Karbonn have also been pulled up, along with global players like Samsung and Apple.
Verification and audit of devices will be initiated based on the responses received from the companies. Penalties will be awarded under Section 43(A) of IT Act in cases where stipulated processes are neglected. Government is also testing facilities in existing labs across India so that the testing and verification of smartphone security procedures can be conducted domestically.
Chinese brands - including brands like Xiaomi, Vivo, Oppo, Lenovo, and Gionee - have captured more than 50 per cent of India's smartphone market share in the second quarter of 2017, as opposed to less than 15 per cent they jointly held last ago. Market share of domestic companies, like Micromax, Intex, Reliance LYF and Lava, has slipped to less 15 per cent in the same period, which previously stood at nearly 40 per cent of India's 109 million unit annual smartphone market.
With tensions rising between India and China, the country is refraining from buying Chinese products in FMCG sector. On the other hand, Chinese smartphones are selling like hot cakes in Indian markets due to a host of reasons including weakened Indian manufacturers after demonetisation, vendors getting better returns from Chinese handset makers, among others.